Brain and Body

Some golfers hit the practice range only when there's something wrong with their swing. Those who understand the importance of muscle memory practice even when their swing is in sync.

Guess who tends to play consistently well, especially under pressure?

Because his muscles have been conditioned to “remember” a good swing, the second golfer stands a much better chance of success under all circumstances.

Let's back up and explain muscle memory. According to Wikipedia, “When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.”

In other words, muscle memory is all about repetition. That's why the pros practice for hours on end, even when things are hunky-dory. A key benefit of ingrained muscle memory is that it helps stave off the swing-wrecking effects of nerves or other unusual forces.

How often have you watched a pro golfer play a series of great shots on the home stretch, then heard him describe the intense pressure attending those holes? Even though he was swamped with nerves, muscle memory produced one solid golf swing after another – just like he practiced.

After your next good round, stick around and hit a small bucket of balls if you have the time, or return ASAP for a thorough range session. Build good memories for your muscles and they'll pay you back when you really need it.

Muscle Memory Key to Golf Consistency and Success Under Pressure

Muscle Memory Key to Golf Consistency and Success Under Pressure

If you gave the average golfer three wishes to use with regard to his or her golf game, the three skills would probably be the following – the ability to hit the ball a long distance, consistency from swing to swing, and the ability to play well under pressure. The topic of distance has been covered countless times in many different places, so we are going to focus on the other two points in this article. Specifically, we are going to look at how muscle memory can help you play golf which is both more consistent, and more successful under pressure.

Playing golf more consistently is almost certainly going to mean that you will have more fun on the course. Golf should be fun, after all, but many players get too frustrated with their poor play to enjoy themselves to the fullest. This is a shame. You only get so much free time to spend on recreational activities, and that time should be enjoyed. By playing golf at a more consistent level, you should be satisfied with your performance more frequently – meaning you will be able to relax and enjoy the day. Even if you still don't play at a particularly high level, at least you will feel like you are playing up to your capabilities.

With regard to the other point, playing well under pressure, that is another skill which can increase your enjoyment of this great game. You might not think that you experience pressure on the course unless you are a competitive player, but that simply isn't true. You can find pressure around just about every corner on the golf course, even if you are playing by yourself. For instance, if you are getting toward the end of a round and you have a chance to set a new personal best score, you are very likely to be at least a little nervous. Those nerves are actually a good thing – they are proof that you care about your play, and you are invested in the process. As long as you can build a swing which is capable of performing well even when you feel nervous, pressure can be seen as a positive rather than a negative.

Proper muscle memory in your golf game is not going to be achieved unless you are willing to spend a significant amount of time practicing your technique. Golf is an extremely difficult game, and there are no shortcuts to success. If you don't want to practice, you just aren't going to improve in any significant way – it's just that simple. However, if you are willing to spend some time practicing, and you use that practice time in the right manner, your game can improve by leaps and bounds in relatively short order.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play golf left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Basics of Practicing Golf

The Basics of Practicing Golf

Many amateur golfers never learn the correct way to practice their golf game. Unless you played golf in an organized environment, such as on a school team, you may not have been instructed on proper practice habits. For those who picked up the game on their own, golf practice can be something of a mystery. Sure, you know how to head to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls, but what are you trying to do with those swings? Unless you have a plan, that time is mostly going to be wasted.

To help you get moving in the right direction, we have laid out some of the basic tenets of golf practice below. Review this list and keep these points in mind during upcoming practice sessions.

  • Exercise your entire game. This is the most important thing you can learn from this article. When you take time to practice golf, you should be working out your entire game when at all possible. Unfortunately, most amateurs break this rule, and they wind up paying the price as the years go by with no improvement. Hitting drivers on the range might be fun, but it isn't going to do anything for your short game. Spend time working with each of your clubs from the driver all the way down to the putter. There are a variety of shots which will be required during each round of golf you play, and the only way to prepare for that challenge is to work on as many difficult shots as possible during practice.
  • Take your time. There is no point in rushing through your golf practice sessions. Golf is a slow game, and it is a game which requires plenty of patience to play well. If you are going to try to rush through everything you do in practice, you won't be getting the full benefit of your time and effort. Instead of rushing, you should intentionally be slowing down, hitting only one or two shots at a time before taking a short break. Practicing in this manner will more closely replicate the kind of experience you will have on the course. You never have occasion to hit several shots in rapid succession on the golf course, so there is no point in doing so during practice. You might not hit as many total practice shots this way, but the shots you do hit will be far more valuable.
  • Find a good facility. A big part of the success you will be able to have with your golf practice comes down to finding the right facility. If you can find a good place to practice your game, you will have a much better chance to take steps forward in the months and years to come. So what should you be looking for in a practice facility near you? First, of course, is a driving range and a putting green. These are the two staples of golf practice, and you aren't going to get far without these two. The driving range should have plenty of space to hit all of your clubs, and the putting green should be large and well-maintained. A small putting green isn't going to allow you to hit lag putts, and lag putting is one of the areas where you should be spending a significant amount of your time. In addition to a range and a putting green, you also should look for a facility which has a dedicated short game practice area. This area will allow you to hit chip and pitch shots, and it will hopefully have a practice bunker as well. Basically, the best golf practice facilities are those which will allow you to work on every part of your game from top to bottom.
  • Be consistent. If at all possible, you should try to stick to a schedule of somewhat consistent practice sessions. Golfers who practice only sporadically will struggle to get better as they may work on their game two or three times one week, only to not practice at all for the next month. By sticking to a schedule – even if it is as simple as once per week – you will be able to make steady and reliable progress.

Good golf practice doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, it is usually best to keep it as simple as possible. By taking the tips listed above to heart, you will quickly be on the right track when it comes to your golf practice sessions.

Driving Range Keys

Driving Range Keys

The previous section discussed overall golf practice tips, but in this section, we are going to take a closer look at how you should be practicing when working on your full swing at the driving range. The muscle memory mentioned in the title of this article is largely going to be developed on the range, where you can hit a number of shots in just a short practice session. You will probably only make 50-or-so full swings over the course of an entire 4-hour round on the course – you can hit the same number of shots in less than an hour on the range, without even needing to rush.

So what can you do on the range to make sure you get the best possible benefit from your work? Review the following tips for assistance.

  • Swing within yourself. It is common for golfers on the driving range to swing as hard as possible on each and every shot. With a wide open range in front of you, it is natural to want to see just how far you can hit the ball. Unfortunately, getting into such a habit is not going to be a good idea. Swinging extra hard on the range might be fun, but it is almost certain to lead to trouble on the golf course. You always need to focus on making a controlled, balanced golf swing during your practice sessions, as those are the kinds of swings which pay off during real rounds of golf. Resist the temptation to flex your muscles on the range and your practice time will be far more beneficial.
  • Pick out one fundamental at a time. There are a variety of fundamentals to work on within your golf swing. However, you want to make sure to narrow down your focus to a single fundamental at any one given time. For instance, let's imagine that you are working on your takeaway at the moment. Rather than thinking about your takeaway along with three other points, just work on the takeaway without any other distractions. Once you are happy with the progress you have made in that area, you can then feel free to work on other issues. Your golf swing will never be 'done' – there is always going to be something else to work on. Teach yourself how to work on just one thing at a time and your progress should be greatly improved.
  • Plan each shot. This is a crucial part of any practice session. For many golfers, hitting balls on the range means swinging away without a specific target in mind. That, of course, is a big mistake. Instead of just sending the ball down the range without a plan, you should be taking aim at a carefully selected target with each swing you make. After all, that is how you are going to play on the course, so why not play that way on the range as well? Before you swing the club, pick out a target and plan the ball flight you are going to use. Then, once you have hit the shot, you can compare the results against what you had planned. By having a plan, you will be able to notice patterns within your game that need correction. For instance, you may be missing the majority of your shots to the left, or you may be hitting the ball shorter than you expect time after time. Whatever the case, you will be able to notice problems in your game thanks to the careful planning that you put into each shot.

Golfers who take care to practice in a logical manner are going to improve quicker than those who head to the range without a plan. Put some thought into each swing that you make and your game is sure to move in a positive direction.

How Practice Helps Your Consistency

How Practice Helps Your Consistency

It is clear that practicing your golf game is going to make you a better player. Even if you don't have great practice habits, you should still benefit from the experience you gain on the practice range and the putting green. With good habits, thanks to the tips listed earlier in this article, you will be on the fast track to success.

While anyone can understand the fact that practice is going to make you a better overall player, it might not be as clear why practice will make you more consistent as well. To answer that question, we have assembled the points below.

  • Less timing involved. As a golfer, it should be one of your main goals to take as much timing out of your swing as possible. Rather than having to time up everything just perfectly at the bottom of the swing, you should work on building a motion which can repeat over and over again even without great timing. The players who are consistent from round to round tend to be those without much timing in their swings. By working on your game regularly, you will be able to gradually remove a number of the timing elements needed to square the face at impact. There should be less hand and wrist action in your swing as time goes by, which means you will be doing a better job of controlling the club through the hitting area.
  • Control over your ball flights. The more shots you see coming off the face of your clubs, the better understanding you will have for your ball flights. To play consistent golf, you need to know which way the ball is going to turn in the air – and you will learn those patterns by spending plenty of time on the driving range. You don't want to be standing over your shots on the course wondering if the ball is going to turn the right way for your needs. Iron these issues out on the range and trust in your swing fully during your rounds.
  • Clean ball striking. The skill of putting the club face on the back of the ball cleanly is not something you can develop just by sitting on your couch. The only way to improve your ability to strike the ball cleanly is to practice. Over time, even without any conscious thought on your part, you will naturally get better at hitting the ball cleanly thanks to the time you spend on the range. Consistent golf is built on a foundation of solid ball striking, so this is a very important place to start. If you can avoid fat or thin contact on most of your shots, the inconsistencies in your game are going to iron themselves out.

It is quite enjoyable to play consistent golf. You will quickly stop worrying about the occasional poor shot when you realize that your game is on-point in most situations. Your scores will vary less from round to round, and your handicap will probably come down overall. With your consistency vastly improved thanks to your efforts in practice, you can move on to focusing on raising your level of play as a whole.

How Practice Helps You Play Under Pressure

How Practice Helps You Play Under Pressure

Golf gets harder under pressure. That probably isn't breaking news to you, especially if you have played in any golf competitions in your life. Playing in tournaments and other competitions is great fun, but it is also a tremendous challenge due to the things that pressure can do to your game. Those three foot putts suddenly look a lot longer when the pressure is on, and those hazards off to the side of the fairway start to look a bit bigger, as well. Playing the game with something on the line is an exciting opportunity because you will quickly learn which parts of your game are rock solid and which parts need some help.

The biggest benefit of practice when it comes to playing well under pressure can be found in terms of your confidence. You need to be confident to play well under pressure, and putting in plenty of time on the driving range will build your confidence up like nothing else. As you make your way around the course, you will be able to draw on the experiences you have had on the range to give you belief. Knowing that you have hit similar shots in practice, you will step up to the ball with confidence that you can pull off the necessary shot at the perfect time.

In addition to raising your confidence overall, building muscle memory in practice is good for dealing with pressure because it will expand the number of different shots you are capable of hitting. People often associate pressure in golf with playing the last few holes of a tournament, but nerves don't actually have to be limited to that situation. Often, it is when you are faced with an uncomfortable shot that your nerves will start to make themselves known. By preparing for a wider variety of shots during your practice sessions, you can limit the number of times you will actually feel pressure.

This concept will be better explained with an example. Imagine that you are playing a short par five where you decide to go for the green in two shots. Your second shot doesn't actually make it onto the green, but you do manage to get within twenty yards of the target. Now, you are facing a 20-yard shot, which just so happens to need to be played over a bunker. If you have not practiced your pitch shots from this range, you will immediately get nervous about the challenge you are facing. A good pitch shot could set up a birdie, but a poor shot will put your ball in the bunker and many problems could follow from that point. Assuming you have practiced your pitch shots, you can suppress your nerves and simply continue on with your round. No matter what kind of shot is in question, preparation is one of the biggest keys to taking nervous of the equation.

Using practice to develop muscle memory in your golf game is one of the best things you can do for your future on the links – as long as you do it right. Take some time to think about your current approach to practice and figure out if you can improve your plan in any way. Once you have a solid plan in place, it is up to you to execute on that plan day after day. Good luck and have fun!